Meet jade. Jade first got into the Bootblack trade when he practiced on his own leather mask last July. It was in a Mentors Program where he was first introduced to bootblacking. According to jade, “As soon as I got my hands on a brush and started shining, I felt at peace really zenned out. My classmates told me it was the quietest I had ever been.”
“When I started watching the bootblacks at the Dallas Eagle, I noticed the pride a person had in their boots, their shared stories, and the special attention for each pair of boots.The bootblack cares for the physical manifestation of shared oral history; that’s a pretty powerful, intimate exchange. You’re like a traveling curator for these live pieces of history. I have this vision where I’m in 1920s-30s style: knickers, long socks, dress shoes/boots, suspenders,
and newscap. At SPLF, I wore that as my “armor” to give me confidence, and I absolutely loved it! I’ve always imagined myself as an old school shoeshine boi ready to send the businessperson on their way with a clean pair of shoes.
Zahira (Rt 66 BB) is my mentor and I have been working with her, taking notes for my kit, and advice on how to get started. So far during COVID-19, I’ve kept in touch with my mentor virtually and have been building my kit and working on a friend’s pair of boots. I keep up with the Community Bootblacks Facebook group and plan to purchase the online course they offer. Caring for someone’s leather is a huge responsibility and part of their legacy and I want to help make it shine.”
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a bootblack?
I don’t think the fear of failure should keep you from becoming a bootblack. Messing up is every newbie’s biggest fear (I know it was definitely mine). It may look like a lot at first with all the polishes and creams, but each bootblack has their own unique style. Just dive right in with a notebook, a bunch of questions, and a lot of enthusiasm. Also if you know any of your local community bootblacks follow them around, observe and ask for advice. They’re really friendly and always willing to help without judgment. It’s a great way to gain knowledge to help make things more comfortable if you’re socially awkward at a bar like myself lol – jade